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Issei Sagawa, The Cannibal Killer Who Killed and Consumed His Friend Is Still Free

In 1981, the Japanese murderer Issei Sagawa, the “Kobe Cannibal”, killed his friend Renée Hartevelt and ate her remain. Today he is free.




When Issei Sagawa killed, dismembered and devoured Renée Hartevelt in 1981, he fulfilled a dream that had been waiting for 32 years.

Sagawa, born in Kobe, Japan, was studying comparative literature in Paris at the time of his first murder. He was immediately arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital. After his extradition to Japan, he was able to free himself due to a legal loophole that keeps him free to this day.

Over the next several years, he made a living from his infamous crime and became something short of a celebrity in Japan.

He has appeared on numerous talk shows and has written manga novels that graphically depict the killing and consumption of Renée Hartevelt, while starring in soft-core porn reenactments of the same nature.

Throughout his life, he has never regretted it. When he talks about his crime, it’s as if he believes it’s the most natural thing in the world. And he has promised to do it again.

A life Of Cannibalistic Thoughts

issei sagawa eating meat

Issei Sagawa eating Xuanyizhi / Weibo Issei Sagawa in a promotional photo for a Japanese magazine.

Issei Sagawa was born on April 26, 1949 and for as long as he can remember, he has possessed cannibal impulses and a desire of eating human flesh.

One of his childhood memories depicts the abuses from his uncle who used to disguise himself as monster and lower him and his brother into a pot of stew to eat. Sagawa searched for fairy tales involving humans being eaten alive and his favorite was Hansel and Gretel. He also remembers noticing his classmates’ thighs thinking, “Mmm, that looks delicious.”

He blames the media’s portrayal of Western women like Grace Kelly for unleashing his cannibalistic fantasies, identifying them with what most people would call sexual desire. Where other people dreamed of sleeping with these beautiful women, Sagawa dreamed of eating them.

Sagawa states that the reasons behind his cannibalistic tendencies cannot be explained or conceptualized by anyone who does not share his exact impulses.

“It’s just a fetish,” he said. “For example, if a man loves a girl, he would naturally feel the desire to see her as often as possible, to be close to her, to smell and kiss her, right? For me, eating is just an extension of that. Frankly, I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t feel this need to eat, consume, other people. “

The killer once attempted to see a psychiatrist when he was 15, he found it useless and retreated further into his isolated psyche. Then, in 1981, after repressing his cannibal wishes for 32 years, he finally unleashed his evil.

After moving to Paris to study literature at the Sorbonne, his cannibalistic impulses took over and the monster left the cage.

“Most nights, I would take a prostitute home and then try to shoot her from behind,”. 

Eventually, he found the perfect victim.

Issei Sagawa kills and eats Renée Hartevelt in Paris

issei sagawa crime scene

Photo from the crime scene of Sagawa’s meal.

Renée Hartevelt was a Dutch student who studied with Sagawa at the Sorbonne. Over time, the two became friends and Hartevelt started to visit Sagawa’s home.

One of those night he tried to murderer her without success but eventually he succeeded. Renée was killed with a single gun shot. Sagawa felt only a moment of remorse before becoming elated.

“I thought I’d call an ambulance,” he said. “But then I thought, ‘Wait, don’t be stupid. You’ve been dreaming this for 32 years and now it’s happening! ‘”

Immediately after killing her, he raped her body and started cutting her.

issei sagawa arrest

Arrest of Issei Sagawa Francis Apesteguy / Getty Images Sagawa is led out of his apartment after his arrest in Paris, July 17, 1981.

“The first thing I did was cut her buttocks. No matter how deep I cut, all I saw was the fat under the skin. It looked like corn and it took a while to actually get to the red meat, “Sagawa recalled.

“The moment I saw the meat, I tore off a piece with my fingers and threw it in my mouth. It was truly an historic moment.

His only remorse was that he didn’t eat it while she was alive.

“What I really wanted was to eat her alive,” he said. “Nobody believes me, but my ultimate intention was to eat her, not necessarily kill her.”

Two days after killing Hartevelt, Sagawa got rid of what was left of her body. He had eaten or frozen most of her pelvic region, so he put her legs, torso and head in two suitcases and called a cab.

The taxi dropped him off at the Bois de Boulogne park, which had a secluded lake inside. He had planned to drop the suitcases in the lake, but several people noticed blood dripping down the suitcases and alerted the French police.

Issei Sagawa Confesses

issei sagawa suitcase

The suitcase that was filled with Renée Hartevelt’s remains.

When the police found ‘Sagawa and questioned him’, his response was a simple admission: “I killed her to eat her meat,” he argued.

Issei Sagawa awaited his trial for two years in a French prison. When it was finally time to be tried, French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere declared him legally insane and unfit to stand trial, dropping the charges and ordering him to be held indefinitely in a psychiatric institution.

He was then deported to Japan, where he was to spend the rest of his days in a Japanese psychiatric hospital. But he didn’t. As the charges in France had been dropped, the court documents had been sealed and could not be released to the Japanese authorities. Therefore, the Japanese had no case against Issei Sagawa and had no choice but to set him free.

On August 12, 1986, Issei Sagawa was discharged from the Matsuzawa Psychiatric Hospital in Tokyo. And he’s been free ever since.

Where is Issei Sagawa Now?

issei sagawa tokyo

Issei Sagawa in Tokyo – Noboru Hashimoto/Corbis via Getty Images – Issei Sagawa walks free among people in Tokyo’s streets.

Today Issei Sagawa walks the streets of Tokyo where he lives, free to do whatever he wants. A terrifying thought but yet real.

“Issei’s desire to eat gets so intense around June when women start wearing less and showing more skin,” he said. “Just today, on my way to the train station, I saw a girl with a nice butt. When I see things like this, I think I want to eat someone again before I die. ”

The cannibal’s twisted and depraved mind has also planned how to do it.

“I think sukiyaki or shabu shabu [lightly boiled thin slices] are the best way to really enjoy meat’s natural flavor.”

Today Sagawa makes money form his infamous crime, writing restaurant reviews and talking in conferences all over china about his impulses and his deranged life. To this date he has published 20 books. His most recent one is called ‘Extremely Intimate Beautiful Girls Fantasies’ and is filled with creepy images drawn by himself.

“I hope that people who read it stop thinking of me as a monster,” he said.

Sagawa allegedly suffers from diabetes and had two major heart attacks in 2015. He is now 72 and lives with his bother in Tokyo.

In 2018, some French directors recorded the two man speaking. Sagawa’s brother asked him: “As your brother, would you still eat me?”

The only answer Sagawa gave him was a blank stare and silence.

If you liked this article you should consider reading ‘The Story Of Albert Fish’

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Born in winter's coldest month, December, Francesco's inner passion for all things spooky begins with him. Horror aficionado since a young age, Francesco's thirst for horror brings him to consume many films and books, setting the basis for a film-making career in horror, thriller, and sci-fi. Francesco's idea to bring horror fans one step closer is finally a reality with GoreCulture, established on May 2022.

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